Evergreen to boost GM low carbon programme

Councils in Greater Manchester are preparing to use the forthcoming European Investment Bank-backed Evergreen fund to subsidise housing and commercial retrofit across thousands of properties.

The low carbon delivery programme, being led by Manchester's Commission for the New Economy, has nine areas of activity including insulation of residential and commercial buildings, the creation of a 'low carbon laboratory' in the Oxford Road area and boosting the export market for low carbon skills and services.

The Evergreen Low Carbon strand will tap into Greater Manchester's £10m set aside from the £60m Evergreen fund for the North West. Evergreen will launch in the coming months and has been established with £30m from the European Regional Development Fund with matched funding from the North West Development Agency and local authority pension funds. The fund is being set up under the Jessica programme – Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas – underwritten by the European Investment Bank. Evergreen is the Jessica fund for the North West outside of Merseyside, which has its own ring-fenced Jessica pot.

Under rules set by the EIB, Evergreen must produce a return on any investments or loans it makes. A report ahead of formal bids in April states that projects seeking investment from the Evergreen Low Carbon strand will be required to:

  • Provide opportunities for an income stream for Greater Manchester councils for re-investment in future low carbon projects
  • Achieve rates of return commensurate with those earned from commercial investment in similar market opportunities
  • Aspire to fit within the merging spatial priorities identified in the draft Greater Manchester Spatial Planning Framework
  • Increase productivity in the low carbon sector
  • Reduce carbon emissions
  • Strengthen local supply chains
  • Create employment opportunities

The New Economy's Low Carbon Economic Area team is aiming to carry out 400,000 basic home insulation measures – cavity wall or loft insulation – over the next three years. The programme of retrofit is expected to safeguard 1,100 jobs.

Councils are also working up plans to improve the energy efficiency of existing civic buildings. Tameside Council is to apply for capital funding and issue an invitation to tender for the installation of solar photovoltaic panels at Stalybridge Civic Hall.

A spokesman for the Evergreen fund said: "Over the last six months, Evergreen has undergone a thorough selection process in order to identify the initial projects for investment. This produced a long list of potential projects, from which a number of 'quick win' were selected. These projects were selected on the basis of their eligibility, alignment with the Evergreen Investment Strategy and their readiness for investment. These projects, subject to satisfactory due diligence, will make up the basket of initial investments.

"We encourage early dialogue with applicants whose projects are close to financing stage, and are available to discuss eligibility criteria immediately. We expect to be making the first investments over the next couple of months, subject to the completion of the operational agreement.

"The overriding deadline for investments imposed on Evergreen is for all the funds to be invested and expended by the end of 2015; we anticipate investing all the funds well in advance of this date."

Evergreen is managed by a consortium led by Manchester City Council and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, CB Richard Ellis and Greater Manchester Pension Fund. The consortium is supported by local authorities across Cheshire, Cumbria and Lancashire. Lancashire County Council and Manchester City Council will act as co-chairs of Evergreen.

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